8 Things We Learned in Ravens’ First OTAs

May 25, 2024

WR Zay Flowers

The Ravens wrapped their first week of Organized Team Activities Thursday and there was no shortage of storylines.

Here are eight things we learned this week:

1. The Ravens haven’t forgotten last year’s sour ending, but they’ve moved on.

Football players (and coaches) are humans, too. The sour ending to last season’s magical run hasn’t been erased by those alien brain zappers in “Men in Black.” The Ravens remember.

But one thing that was clear this week is that the Ravens are moving on. And while last year’s team was special, and some pieces have been stripped away, they feel like they still have a good chance of making another run at the Super Bowl.

Every person is going to treat it differently. For wide receiver Zay Flowers, who had a costly fourth quarter fumble, their wound is still fresher.

“Honestly, I still haven’t gotten over it,” Flowers said. “I still think about it, but I know next year, we have a chance to get back there and try to make it to the Super Bowl, so that’s why I’m working every day and going hard every day to get back to that moment.”

Safety Kyle Hamilton had two players with neighboring lockers, Patrick Queen and Geno Stone, leave for AFC North rivals this offseason. Hamilton said he still talks with Stone a lot and Queen some.

“I think you take seasons like that, that are rare – for a team to go to the AFC Championship – and you cherish it,” Hamilton said. “But at the same time, we all have that bitter taste in our mouth, and we want to right our wrongs and ultimately win a Super Bowl. So, I think going on this path and having that experience is going to help us.”

2. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens aren’t worried about his weight.

One of the biggest talking points entering the week was the waistline of two-time and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, who revealed earlier this month that he was down to 205 pounds – 25 pounds less than he was two years ago and 10 pounds lighter than last season.

Jackson does look thinner, but he said he feels “great” and everybody around him says he’s in great shape.

“He’s a pro. He knows what he’s doing,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He knows where he wants to be with that.”

While he wouldn’t reveal how he shed pounds, Jackson said he did it to become more agile.

“I always thought he was agile. I always thought he was fast and hard to bring down,” Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken said. “So, does he look great? Yes, he looks great. Has he worked hard? I assume that he worked hard to get that. I’m sure he didn’t go on a hunger strike to lose the 20 pounds, so he’s probably worked hard at it to get to that point. So, I’m excited for him. He’s motivated, he looks great.”

3. Derrick Henry will carry the load, especially early on.

Monken said he still anticipates using all the Ravens’ running backs according to their strengths. He said he wants to be mindful of getting 30-year-old Derrick Henry through a full 17-game season.

But Monken followed that with, “I mean, he’s so durable” and put a big number on Henry’s target carries for this season.

“If he carries it 300 times, we’re having a helluva year,” Monken said. “It means we’re running it a lot. It means we’re up in games. We want him to finish. We want him to be the closer.”

By the early looks of it, Henry could be a bell cow for the Ravens. He will do a bit of everything, including being used as a receiving weapon.

Henry practiced every day this week and has made a strong first impression on Harbaugh. He’s showing he’s ready to carry the load. Henry will be especially leaned on early with Keaton Mitchell slated to start the season on the shelf as he comes back from last year’s knee injury.

“One thing about Derrick – one of many things – he works,” Harbaugh said. “He is a worker, 100% every day, locked in, asks questions, texts his coach at night, ready to go at practice, in the weight room, training room. [I’m] very impressed. This guy is a true pro, ultimate pro.”

4. The bar has been raised high for Hamilton.

Hamilton had a superb sophomore season that made him a first-team All-Pro. But, especially after the offseason defensive departures, more is going on Hamilton’s plate.

Hamilton said the Ravens’ coaches challenged him this offseason to be more vocal on and off the field. With veteran safety Marcus Williams not at OTAs this week, Hamilton was running the show on the back end of the defense.

“I’m still a young guy – relatively – but with power comes responsibility, and heavy is the head that wears the crown,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton already played a wide range of positions last season. Against the 49ers, for example, he lined up at six different spots.

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But Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr said Hamilton is eager to do even more in Year 3, and the bar is high.

“Kyle Hamilton is the ultimate chess piece; I think he’s one of the top players in the league,” Orr said. “My goal for him is to one day win defensive MVP. I think he has that type of talent, he has that type of work ethic, he’s that type of person.”

Final Drive: Kyle Hamilton Is Stepping Into More of a Leadership Role 

5. A veteran safety may be at the top of the shopping list.

The Ravens have high expectations for Hamilton and Williams as their starting safeties, but they’re in the market for a third safety to help fill the void left by Stone’s departure.

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens had three-time Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams in for a visit this week and said he “very impressed with his mindset.”

Orr said the Ravens have some great in-house candidates, including Ar’Darius Washington, and reiterated that “that position is important.”

There’s been plenty of chatter around Baltimore about possibly adding a veteran guard. While Harbaugh joked that he also thinks about it “pretty much every day,” he also doesn’t seem to be in a rush to settle who will start.

“They’re preparing for that combat competition that’s going to happen in practice going forward,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t know what guys are going to look like. I always want to look at guys in different spots, unless they’re established at that position. See where they look good, where they look the best. You never know what you might see.”

Photos From Day 2 of Ravens OTAs

Check out the action from the Under Armour Performance Center during the first week of Organized Team Activities.

(From left to right) WR Qadir Ismail, WR Isaiah Washington, WR Devontez Walker & RB Chris Collier1 / 70

(From left to right) WR Qadir Ismail, WR Isaiah Washington, WR Devontez Walker & RB Chris Collier

Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens PhotosCB Nate Wiggins2 / 70

CB Nate Wiggins

Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens Photos

7. Rashod Bateman has the faith of his offensive coordinator, too.

Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Eric DeCosta have previously spoken highly of wide receiver Rashod Batman this offseason, saying he’s going to be a bigger part of the offense.

This week, Monken echoed those sentiments and said the Ravens could have done a better job of moving him around last year to get him opportunities alongside Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr.

“As the year went on, Rashod really came on, and I’ve seen tremendous growth,” Monken said. “I expect a tremendous year [from] him, and we certainly could have found a way to get him the ball more.”

Todd Monken: Fired Up for Where We’re Headed 

8. Malik Cunningham is a WR and Devin Leary is an intriguing QB.

The Ravens added Malik Cunningham to the roster late last season, plucking him off the New England Patriots’ practice squad with the thought that he could develop into their backup quarterback.

Now it’s clear that Cunningham’s future, at least in Baltimore, is at wide receiver, as he’s formally listed there on the roster and practiced at that position all this week. Even with the Ravens a little short-handed at quarterback Thursday without Lamar Jackson or undrafted rookie Emory Jones, Cunningham worked with the wideouts.

Cunningham made some impressive catches and was often targeted in Thursday’s practice. He’s shifty, especially underneath.

The Ravens are leaning into the development of sixth-round rookie quarterback Devin Leary, who flashed his impressive arm strength and good ball placement during Thursday’s practice. Leary also threw a couple interceptions, but he’s going to be a fun player to watch develop this summer.

QB Lamar Jackson

Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens Photos

6. The Ravens defense doesn’t look much different.

At 31 years old, Orr is stepping in as a first-time defensive coordinator after being the Ravens’ linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Orr grew up playing linebacker for the Ravens under Dean Pees. He got his start in coaching with the Ravens, learning from Wink Martindale and then Mike Macdonald. Orr knows the Ravens defense inside and out.

Thus, while Orr will put his spin on the scheme just like his predecessors did, the Ravens defense is not changing all that much. Orr said even the language of the defense doesn’t have to be altered – even with former Ravens now on other teams in the division.

“We’ve been building this system for a long, long time – since 2018,” Orr said. “We’re just going to do what we do and play how we play.”

One thing that has changed is Orr’s sideline demeanor. A passionate player who was bombastic on the sideline at times as a position coach, Orr was chill on the sideline during the first week of OTAs.

It’s Orr’s first time calling plays, and he said he’s taking it day-by-day and getting more comfortable in practice.

“I’ve got to calm myself down a little bit,” Orr said. “After a play, I celebrate, [but] now I’ve got to get ready for the next call. I can’t celebrate too hard.”